LANCASTER — Attorneys from the Manly, Stewart & Finaldi law firm representing a former Palmdale High School student who gave birth to a child fathered by the girl’s former basketball coach, announced Tuesday that they reached a $5 million settlement of her lawsuit against Antelope Valley Union High School District.
“This settlement is one of the largest against a California school district in a single plaintiff sexual abuse case,” the victim’s attorney Saul Wolf said in a statement.
Former basketball coach Marcus Williams, then 38, plead no contest to seven felony counts for sexually abusing plaintiff Jane DN Doe, who was 14-years-old when they met. As part of his plea agreement, he was also required to register as a sex offender.
The case had been scheduled to go to trial in September, but was continued to March. The parties reached the settlement through mediation.
“I would have been surprised if the district took it to trial because the there were some really, really bad facts, to put it lightly,” Wolf said in a telephone interview. “The school district failed in multiple respects.”
The lawsuit alleged that, before being hired by the District, Williams had a criminal rec-ord from 2002 in Texas for vehicle burglary. Further, prior to being hired to coach at Palmdale High, he had been dismissed from his coaching job at Paraclete High School for misconduct that included sending inappropriate text messages to female students.
The complaint also alleged that several AV Union High School District staff members and administrators failed to report sexual activity between Williams and the underage student, who became pregnant with his child when she was 15-years-old. Williams stated in a sworn declaration that, based on his prior arrest history and dismissal from Paraclete High, “it is apparent that Antelope Valley Union High School District/Palmdale High School should not have hired me as a coach to work with female student.”
In their court papers, defense attorneys stated that no one knew of the Doe-Williams relationship after it began in December 2015 until the next month, when the two were found alone in Williams’ car at night, by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy. Williams was fired the next day.
Wolf said in his statement, that the size of the settlement reflects the tremendous damage suffered by his client and blatant failure of school officials to supervise Williams and protect his client.
“The amount that they paid is important for our client to obtain therapy because she’s going to be living with this for the rest of her life,” Wolf said.
The District released a statement Tuesday in response to a request for one.
“It is our sincere hope that the closure of this matter brings some solace to the victim,” the statement said. “We remain committed to work diligently to protect the safety and well-being of our students.”